|Cookie bakers fire up ovens for General Conference|
Jean King, a member of First United Methodist Church in
Burleson, Texas, boxes up homemade cookies for delegates and guests
attending the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth.
UMNS photos by John Lovelace.
By John A. Lovelace*
April 14, 2008 | FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS)
Not to be disrespectful, but The Book of Discipline and The United Methodist Hymnal
aren’t the only things up for grabs when United Methodists congregate
this April in Fort Worth for the church's top legislative meeting.
An elaborate assortment of cookies––about 100,000 of them in an array of
varieties and sizes––will be there for the snacking as 1,000 delegates
converge on the Fort Worth Convention Center.
Cookies are a tradition at the United Methodist General Conference,
though organizers aren't exactly sure when and where the tradition
began. Each four years when the worldwide meeting is held, the host
conference provides delegates with a little caloric sustenance during
breaks from long hours of debates and decisions.
For this year's meeting that begins April 23 and ends May 2, the cookies
are being baked by women of the host Central Texas Annual (regional)
Jeannette Segerstrom spoons out
coconut cookie dough.
Only in Texas would the top cookie coordinator be known as the "lead
cookie wrangler." (A wrangler, according to the dictionary, is a "cowboy
who herds livestock, especially saddle horses.")
At 4 feet, 11 inches and 102 pounds, Marzie Bartee might not appear to
be the wrangler sort. However, according to the conference-wide
organizational chart started last August, she is definitely the top hand
herding these cookies to the last corral.
Here’s how she arrived at the goal of 100,000 cookies:
"OK, there’s 1,000 delegates," she calculates. "They take two breaks a
day. We’re packaging the cookies three each in a Ziploc bag. Each
delegate takes a bag each break; that’s six cookies per delegate per
day, or 6,000 cookies per day. Ten days for 1,000 delegates; that’s
60,000 cookies. And we know some people are going to take extras. And
there’s guests. So we figured we might just as well make it 100,000."
Here comes the wrangling part.
"OK, we need 100,000 cookies for 10 days. That’s 8,333 dozen. There are
seven districts in the Central Texas Conference. That’s nearly 1,200
dozen cookies per district."
Bartee relied on 12 years of leadership experience in Central Texas
United Methodist Women to ask each district UMW president to designate a
district cookie wrangler. Letters went out to each local church unit
and also to United Methodist churches without one, including those on
multi-point charges or with part-time pastors.
Sue Eubanks is the deputy cookie wrangler for
the host conference's
By phone and e-mail, she stayed in close touch with the seven district
wranglers. Those seven assigned quotas, distributed donated pizza boxes
to hold six dozens each (24 Ziploc bags of three cookies each),
designated collection points and secured delivery drivers. Some of the
drivers will travel 100 miles each way across the spacious Central Texas
Conference in order for the cookies to arrive at the right time and
place on three delivery dates: April 22, April 26 and April 29.
Not unlike a cattle roundup, once the cookies are unloaded at Dock 5 of
the convention center, the wranglers' work is done. The host committee
takes over from there.
Women in each local church chose what variety of cookies to bake. Bartee
reckons that chocolate chip and sugar cookies will be most popular.
Iced cookies are not allowed. About one-fourth will be sugar-free and
will be so labeled, as will those containing nuts, coconut or peanut
butter that might create dietary problems.
Made from scratch or from prepackaged dough? Local choice. Baked in home
or church ovens? Local choice. All funding is local. Contributions
Feeding the masses
Myrtis Parker, conference president of United Methodist Women, first
got wind of the cookie challenge as an alternate delegate to the 2004
General Conference in Pittsburgh.
"Women from other conferences would say, 'Oh, you know, General
Conference is going to be in your conference. … And you’ll probably have
to do the cookies,'" she recalls.
Why United Methodist Women? "When you think about cookies, you think
women," she says. "… You go to your organized group of women to get
Myrtis Parker (left) and Marzie Bartee are the top cookie
wranglers for the Central Texas Annual (regional) Conference.
Based on information from Pittsburgh organizers, she knew she had to
find a passionate leader to oversee the roundup. "I knew a lady who is
good at organizing food. She’s in UMW and enjoys doing this," she
Parker was thinking of Bartee, who feeds more than 100 people each week
as kitchen coordinator in her own First United Methodist Church of
Burleson. Parker asked, Bartee agreed, and the rest is cookie history in
Parker, who is also a delegate to this year's General Conference, sees a
larger benefit in the great General Conference cookie roundup. "One can
view cookies as healthy, depending on the ingredients," she says.
"For me this provides an opportunity for communion … in that we join
each other in breaking bread and drinking beverages as a community of
God’s people. We have the opportunity for fellowship, and I think this
is good for the soul."
*Lovelace has covered eight United Methodist General Conferences for various publications, including NEWSCOPE and United Methodist Reporter. He retired as editor of The Reporter in 1997. Mike Hickcox, manager of Radio Ministry Initiatives for United Methodist Communications, contributed to this report.
News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Audio: Myrtis Parker, Texas Conference UMW president
"I think this is good for the soul."
"Our goal is 1,200 dozen."
"If you were late …"
Fort Worth awaits General Conference delegates
General Conference 2008
Central Texas Annual Conference
United Methodist Women